Constitutional Governance

Democratic Innovations in Constitutional Governance

Constitutional arrangements in the developed democracies have proved remarkably stable over the postwar period, enabling governments to deliver unprecedented prosperity to their citizens. Yet in recent decades, many of these long-established structures seem to be working poorly. At one end of the spectrum, highly centralized constitutional arrangements – such as unitary Westminster style parliamentary government – seem ill-equipped to manage the multiplicity of demands spawned by pluralized societies, critical citizens, resurgent regionalism, and information-based economies.

At the other end of the spectrum, systems with highly proportional electoral rules and multi-party governments have seemed unable to respondent quickly and effectively to new social challenges. While some of the most centralized regimes have begun to diffuse power – devolving authority to regions, for instance, or democratizing upper chambers of the legislature – more fragmented polities have experimented with more majoritarian electoral rules and more powerful executives.

How can we best understand the characteristic strengths and weaknesses of alternative constitutional arrangements? What explains the patterns of reform we observe – with striking innovation in some contexts but institutional inertia in others? Where constitutional arrangements have been reformed, how successfully have such innovations reconciled demands for broad representation with the need for effective and accountable government.

Conferences and Workshops:

Transforming Canadian Governance Through Senate Reform
Conference 19-20 April 2007.
Program in PDF format
Abstracts of presentations in PDF format


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